Rex Tillerson
Rex TillersonReuters

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir about the situation in Saudi Arabia, a State Department spokeswoman said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The conversation, which took place on Tuesday, followed a crackdown on corruption in the kingdom which has led to dozens of arrests.

Saudi Arabia has arrested dozens of former government ministers as well as wealthy princes as part of the corruption probe. In addition, the powerful heads of the Saudi National Guard, an elite internal security force, and the navy were replaced.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also said on Thursday the U.S. charge d‘affaires in Riyadh met a day earlier with Saad Al-Hariri, who resigned as Lebanese prime minister while in Saudi Arabia.

Asked about reports claiming that Hariri was being held in the kingdom, Nauert declined to say where the meeting took place or to elaborate on Hariri’s status.

She described the talks as “sensitive, private, diplomatic conversations.”

In his conversation on Tuesday with Jubeir, Nauert said, Tillerson urged that the Saudi government conduct any corruption prosecutions “in a fair and transparent manner.”

The dozens of royal family members, officials and businessmen who have been arrested in the anti-corruption crackdown face charges ranging from money-laundering to extortion.

Many experts see the crackdown as a move by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who heads a new anti-corruption body, to amass more power to enact political, economic and social reforms and to ensure that he succeeds his father, King Salman.

The arrests came less than two weeks after the crown prince welcomed thousands of global business titans to Riyadh for an investment summit, showcasing his economic reform drive for a post-oil era.

The 32-year-old crown prince portrays himself as a liberal reformer. During that summit, he announced that the ultra-conservative kingdom would adopt a moderate and open Islam. Previously, the kingdom announced it would cancel its longstanding ban on women driving. It is believed the crown prince was behind this move as well.